List of Essential Oils

Essential Oil (A-D)

Essential Oil (E-M)

Essential Oil (N-Z)

Skin Care Beauty

Skin Care Recipes

Hair Care with Essential Oil

Healing Recipes

Aromatherapy Remedies

Aromatic Cooking

Aromatic Recipes

Massage Oil Recipes

Natural Cosmetics

Aromatherapy is one of the fastest growing branches of complementary and alternative medicine. The exact definition of the term 'aromatherapy', however, is in dispute. One definition is: 'the therapeutic use of fragrances or at least of mere volatiles to cure or to mitigate or to prevent disease and infections. This does not mention massage or the absorption of essential oils through the skin and their effect on target organs, which is the mainframe of aromatherapy in the UK, USA and many other countries. There is a general difficulty with the concept of massaging with a volatile solution because, by definition, it volatilises into the air so perhaps a definition more relevant to aromatherapists is: 'use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils in massage and other treatment' (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1995).

However, the term 'aromatherapy', which was coined in the 1930s by Rene-Maurice Gattefosse in a book entitled Aromatberapie first published in 1937 (Gattefosse, 1937/1993), was based on the odour of essential oils and perfumes and their antimicrobial, physiological and cosmetological properties (Gattefosse, 1928, 1952, 1937/1993). 'Pure' essential oils were of no concern in Gattefosse's day and neither was massage, although he used essential oils on the skin as disinfectants for healing wounds.

The original concept of using essential oils as alternative medicines was based on the assumption that the volatile, fat-soluble essential oil was equivalent in bioactivity to that of the whole plant when inhaled or massaged into the skin. Unfortunately this notion is clearly flawed, as will become evident on closer inspection.

The basic limitation of the concept that essential oils exhibit the same properties as the whole plant can be illustrated using the orange as an example. Orange essential oil is extracted from the rind alone the rest of the orange is not included. Thus the water-soluble vitamins, which include the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid, etc.) and, of course, vitamins C and A are excluded, as are calcium, iron, proteins, carbohydrates and water. Orange essential oil massaged into the skin would therefore exclude all these components. To give another example, consider whether massaging butter (the fat-soluble component of milk) into the skin of a baby would be equivalent to the baby drinking the whole milk from which it was derived. Would the baby be able to grow and develop simply by having the fat component of milk massaged onto its body, devoid of protein, carbohydrate, water-soluble vitamins, minerals and of course energy? The answer is obviously no. It is therefore impossible to extrapolate the effects of a whole plant or animal produce to that of the essential oil or fat-soluble component.

The notion that the birth of modern aromatherapy can be attributed to the Ancient Egyptians is a misinterpretation that has been perpetuated in some aromatherapy texts. There is virtually no evidence that pure essential oils were used by the Egyptians, though some scented plant components were extracted into fat or oil and massaged into the skin; also various resins and herbs were burnt (incense) and some extracts were used for preserving dead bodies in mummification. The plant extracts which were extracted into oil or fat would be equivalent to the present-day herbal infused oils, made with hot or cold oils, and would contain many other components as well as the essential oil.


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